Factory orders fell 2.0 percent from December, the Commerce Department reported, slightly less than analysts expected.
The department revised downward the December increase to 1.3 percent from its initial 1.8 percent estimate.
Excluding transportation equipment orders, which tend to be volatile month-over-month, factory orders rose 1.3 percent in January.
Orders for ships and boats plunged 74.3 percent, while defense aircraft orders dropped 63.8 percent.
Nondefense aircraft orders also posted a hefty decline of 34 percent.
The backlog of unfilled orders slipped 0.2 percent, after a December increase of 0.7 percent, but were up 1.5 percent from a year ago.
Total factory orders increased 1.2 percent from January 2012, showing a continuing but slow momentum in the manufacturing industry.
“Unfilled orders remain on an upward trend. Continued growth in these orders will be necessary if manufacturers are going to keep production levels steady amid fluctuating demand,” Briefing.com said in research note.